Arguably Dragonforce, called Dragonheart originally when I saw them prior to their huge current popularity supporting Stratovarius, pioneered the UK’s power metal surge into a scene that was and probably still is European dominated. Having now seen the band countless times over the years I do find that Dragonforce is vilified by UK metal fans and even power metal fans for some reason. True enough the guys in the band are a bunch of posing wankers but so what, they don’t do anything different posing wise to that of old outfits like Priest, Maiden, Scorpions, Whitesnake. OK the band has that glam feminine touch on stage but when it comes down to it Dragonforce write tunes that nobody else could even attempt such is the speed and intricacy of the songs. Critically it is fair to say their tunes have been overly long even on CD, which makes them overstay their welcome when played live admittedly.
It is now some four years since the bands last album “Ultra Beatdown” in 2008 and their last with vocalist ZP Theart, who has gone onto front a new act called I Am I. In comes the new vocalist Marc Hudson and a new album that shows a revitalised Dragonforce continuing their trademark high velocity power metal virtuosity. The four year recharging has done wonders to the band for me, the tunes are shorter, but still delivered at warp speed and Marc Hudson’s voice adds a few new touches to the album that have maybe been missing before. Power metal music has always been about having fun, shaking that fist and head-banging, posing while you do it if you want, with all manner of paraphernalia infecting the scene to create that fun element. OK it is cheesy and some of the more cheesier stage elements, attire and props makes me cringe but when it all comes down to it power metal is fun music pure and simple.
“The Power Within” starts with a very sweet lead melody interrupted by a drum fill and gradual build up that you know is about to charge into warp speed guitar acrobatics. Marc’s immediate high pitch vocal intro is perfect as the lightning double kick would give any death metal band a run for its money, even if it features lower in the mix than death metal would do. The rampant lead harmonies are everywhere as you’d expect with duelling solos played at either bloody hell or fucking hell speed. Debatably this is where many fans draw the line in power metal which is a shame as this album has much shorter tunes overall with the longest clocking just over seven minutes. The vocal delivery is similar to ZP, clean and anthemically driven, the lyrics are sung as quickly as the guitar in places. “Fallen World” again starts with a nice guitar harmony before the hyper fast guitar riff and fret board wizardry. The tune has sporadic snare blasts that Dragonforce has used before. I’d liken this tune to something off the sadly defunct Lost Horizon debut such as “Heart Of Storm”.
Dragonforce do not do slow leads as we all know but with this album the solos fit within the concept of each song instead of being juxtaposed against the body of the rhythm just for the sake of it. That might take some convincing for some people I admit but after a few listens this albums sits very comfortably for me, next to anything that Firewind, Rhapsody Of Fire or Dream Evil has put out. “Cry Thunder” offers a change being much slower, it has a bouncy folk element like Rhapsody Of Fire and a massive chorus that is sure to make it onto the live set. The song also contains the keyboard and guitar duel and contains a marching harmony that would make it onto a Running Wild album. The epic tune is “Wings Of Liberty” which begins with a piano intro and a ballad like vocal line, which eventually is superseded by a breakneck riff and followed by a riff segue that is momentarily like “Paradise” by Stratovarius. As with all Dragonforce songs the complexity of the arrangements is often diminished by the all encompassing speed of the songs, as the switches between piano facets and bass work alternate very smoothly. The leads are typical but here the band branches out a tad by offering a more rock like lead solo.
One of the more surprising songs is “Seasons” which is much calmer, not a ballad however, just a slower power metal song that boasts vocals not too dissimilar to Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), slightly higher in pitch and tad more effeminate. The solo in the song is Gus G (Firewind) inspired to me, slower, deliberate and highly adept as Marc shows he can reach some very high notes indeed. It’s back to all out speed on “Heart Of The Storm” with moments bordering speed metal as again the double kick blast components return. More familiar Dragonforce material follows on “Die By The Sword” with a nice riff and harmony, something this band could probably write in their sleep to be honest. Again there is a hugely catchy chorus as the album’s penultimate tune is “Last Man Stands” before an acoustic rendition of “Seasons”. The former is slower again with keyboards being dominant with drums and vocals. The shift into double bass is inevitable and works brilliantly as this song feels like a hyper speed heavy metal song with lead overload. The acoustic version of “Season” works exceptionally well with this song, seeing as it is the slowest song on the album. The body of the song is totally intact and sounds like a mid era Stratovarius tune similar to “Forever”.
Personally “The Power Within” is a great return to the power metal scene and with an album that is generally more accessible than previous efforts, stalwart DF fans will probably say it’s not fast enough whereas I am positive this will gain the band new fans and maybe re-establish some fans who have become disheartened with the band over the years.
8.5/10 (Martin Harris)